Giancarlo Erra: how to undress from the unnecessary in order to reach out for the true heart of art

Nosound are an international-scale italian band. The only italian project in prog-new age label Kscope roaster, Giancarlo Erra & co represent that side of music that, even if still stiffed in a narrow niche, encarnate the attempt to move a step forward over the ultra-technical prog which developed in the lst years. Far from musical frenzies, technical minutiae and too muscular and baroque time signature changings, Nosound, with Allow Yourself, their new album, show us how, delivering us from so many meaningless scaffolds, we can reach the heart not only of the true art but also listener’s, while retaining fresh, progressive, easy-to-listen elements in a musical panorama apparently quite stagnant.

 

Hello Giancarlo! How are you?

Everything’s fine. Can you Italy-resident people please [Giancarlo Erra has been living in London for years, now] tell which are the most listened music genres right now?

Right now? Right now it’s trap.

And what is it?

Maybe it’s better if you don’t know. It’s a sort of hip-hop with very facile issues.

 Oh, i see. Probably i’ve read this on the magazines. So, is it a sort of poorer rap?

No, it’s worse. But let’s come back to prog music, please!

[Laughs]

 So, what’s your feeling about this new album? Do you consider it your best one?

Yes, for sure, even if we can assume that no artist usually releases an album if it’s not his/her best one. It’s slightly different from the previous ones, and that’s why I think it’s the best one. Lots of old things have been left behind and this work is more open to what I prefer to listen more.

Post rock, for instance?

Exactly, like Mogwai post-rock, which I personally adore. It’s the music genre I feel more confident in: anyway, being with Kscope, we were placed inside the “prog-zone”, something that, actually, didn’t benefit us so much. When we go to play in a festival, people usually expect a typical prog band, and could be disappointed by the lack of mid-section, of odd time signatures. In this album, once and for all, I wanted to free Nosound from the people who expect that kind of music and realize what I truly love.

You said that when you go to prog festivals people expects from you a certain music tipology. There seems to be a sort of wall: at one side, the true technical prog, like Haken, e at the other side there are Nosound, The Pineapple Thief, the Porcupine Tree. Don’t you think that the fact that people demands odd time signatures and other prog cliches, without even trying to look into some contaminations, is quite limitating?

Yes, definitely. It’s not prog fault, but it’s due to most of the people. The genre must advance, so it shoud be the so-generated progression to establish the tastes and not viceversa. But, unfortunately, it’s like this. We see a lot of this tendency in the Kscope stats.

So, you named Kscope, you label, for which Nosound signed in the far 2008, and label whose roaster includes band able to reunite, like you, sophistication and easy-listening. How are you doing with it? Is there a sort of tendency of trying to steer your writing or you are totally free?

 I would sign for them other a billion times. They dont’ intervene at all. They just take the master at the very end. It’s more of me sending material during the process, to ask for an opinion for a potential single or not, just because I want a feedback. During the years, they had my same problem: they began to include bands who are very far from prog, because they felt a need of renewal in order to avoid to be locked inside only one genre. Kscope was so happy about my new album, because it also helps them to be well receive into the electronic music world. In the end, I’d repeat it a billion times.

If we begin from Nosound origins, the sound was, initially, much more morbid and misty. It gradually became, especially after Afterthoughts, much more concrete, more adherent to reality. Was there some event that make you composition drift towards that direction or was it totally spontaneous?

 Well, it’s the second one. It’s a mix of experience, ageing, evolution of my own personal tstes. I’m a greedy user of Spotify et similia. I love to discovery, on an everyday basis, new music genres and proposals. Since I’m inside that state of mind, I’m more prone to change and see where that shift will drive me. For the band, it was a more gradual process. Afterthoughts was a sum up of what there was “before”, and it was Scintilla the album of this change. It’s a much more focused album, richer in drums. Along the years, I switched from the computer, which I don’t use anymore, to guitars. Right now, I’m totally into piano. It was in Scintilla that I realized I didn’t want anymore to compose with a laptop, to compose without any plugin, without any app: I just wanted to come back to the apparent simplicity of the piano-and-voice composition style. With Allow Yourself I pursuaded and succeeded in this idea. There was, then, a huge change. Someone liked it, someone else not, but with fanbase it’s always like this.

And in your opinion, Giancarlo Erra, what do you think that are the main reasons why the fanschanged their minds?

 Well, it’s quite understandable. When you listen to a band you do this because you already know what you can listen to. So, for the people who followed us since 10 years, it’s not obvious that they could like us even after this change. But our title, Allow Yourself, is meaningful. I’m an artist, and I mustn’t care about it and I must go on my own way.

So, Allow Yourself: allow yourself everything, do what you really want, left behind what you don’t love. Is this the concept of the album?

 Yes, and it’s unconnected from the concept of “artist”. Some things, to be true, must be part from being an artist. You change and you evolve first as a paerson, because what you write is a mirror of who you are; otherwise, while you create, you fake. Allow Yourself is referred to a personal evolution: you maturate in lots of different ways, and then you realize that it’s also due the interference of the outside world. You are often prone to think that only those elements that contribute to our own growth, but it’s how we come up with them that makes us evolve. It’s how we manage to exit from our comfort zone and get satisfaction from that unceasing changing that also derives from unpleaseant moments. Musically speaking, to me, it happened that I manage to listen to music I used not to bear, and also to find elements I can appreciate. Allow Yourself, in the end, is an invitation to open your mind.

giancarlo erra interview

Then, we can say, that this album is the one of your artistic maturity, the one you have been completely sincere.

Actually, in music, I’ve always been. I only did what I wanted. And that’s why I’ve said that you have to divide “artist” and “person” concepts. What I used to be, Giancarlo, wasn’t the most mature version of myself. So, then, to answer to your questio, it is.

I’m curious: where your music tastes have moved to?

 Not on trap, but I could try it! Noise, glitch, very much sperimental electronic music. It’s something that I start to really appreciate. When you are a musician is very easy to look down on dj’s, producers, someone who makes music without an instrument. But, then, for instance, if you talk about Albano, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran: you can begin to admit that there’s something about them, something that doesn’t resonate so much in my mind, but there is. If you admit this, you can start to be at peace with yourself, you just need to separate artistic quality and personal taste.

Let’s come back to Allow Yourself. The first single, Don’t you Dare. The videoclip is a true piece of performance art, very theatrical. How did you met the director, Manuel Lobmaier? But, most important, how should we interpret raven and swan movements?

I met him because he’s a frind of a director I knew thank to our photographer, Caroline Traitler. I don’t like to suggest how to interpret something, not to be misterious, but what I love about music is that since you release it, it belongs to everyone. And everyone is free to interpret it as he/she wants it. So, when people ask me about the meaning of something, I then answer to tell what they feel about it. I’m much more curous about personal interpretations then about what I meant with it. Anyway, the videoclip is about an internal struggle: the raven, who is a man, wants to meet the women, the swan, one last time, spying her, and then flee away. another meaning could be about two people stucked inside an unpleasant relationship and, at the end, it’s only him who manages to escape.

Let’s stay inside the visual field. Allow Yourself artwork is prone to numerous interpretations: there are two mannequins, and, to me, they seems to be male figures dressed up in feminine clothes. Are there any reason behind that choice?

Actually, I’ve never noticed that. You see that I’m right? Everyone sees what he/she wants. When I took that picture, in Wien, I already knew album title. What strickened me was that enigmatic look, while they were standing one in front of the other, in that deserted shop. A weird gesture, misterious: one of the figure is sitting, resigned, but the other one seems to encourage the other with the hand. It seemed to be a perfect representation of the concept, a good equilibrium between behing perfectly fitting and enigmatic a the same, with the healthy dose of symbolisms. The other artwork were mostly picture. Here, instead, we end up inside symbols: music, then, as we said, is much more focused.

giancarlo erra interview

The last album, rather than Scintilla, is much more minimal. The sound is dark, gaunt, even if there are some orchestral and electronic elements. A very particular choice is about the vocal style: there are basically no choruses, no dubbing, no other voices. This makes the sound very melancholic, grieving, but sincere. Why did you choose this style?

That’s true. This album is much more minimal. Orchestral elements are represented only by a string quartet, analogic synth, no guitars, except in Weights. About voice, harmonizations are something typical of a grandiose rock that I really don’t like. Probably this is due the fact that I’ve studied piano and voice, here in England; I got much more possibilities with my own voice, allowing me to think to be able to cover the whole vocal part only by muself, without harmonizations. It’s a personal and minimalist album, it’s quite natural that I cared of most of the voices. There are no effects.

About this ideology, you are now inside that cicle of musicians who refuse electronic/digital music, using now vintage instruments. How did you get on this?

Wonderfully. It’s connected to album title: when you are free from the need to choose, your true nature comes up. I’ve never been much of a lover of pre-sets, I’ve always done lot of sound esign, because it’s the field I come from. I loved to use analogic instruments, to take picture of the the sequence of knobs I used to create a certain effect: it’s the correct way, for me, to let flow the true inspiration. I always disagreed with the people who compose through improvisation; it’s even worse if there is a producer, in that case often you just copy-paste his/her ideas. To me, a track, if it doesn’t come in his whole, with voice, piano, guitars, it simply doesn’t exist. To be far from the laptop it helps a lot, because I’m totally focused, I register on mp3 audio, without midi, and you cannot change it. If there’s something it doesn’t convince me, I have to repeat it. It’s a huge obstacle which forces you to choose the right ideas. I love to write like this.

So, when you have to work on a new album, you start from a concept or a stylistic choice, avoiding improvisation?

It must be an idea it’s worth to develop. If i’m not sure since the very begin, I don’t waste time on it. I prefer a third way: ideas must come naturally, and, then, I usually realize that there’s something connecting those songs. I write music on daily basis, and then I listen to it again, and I feel the strings linking them: that’s how the album begins. It’s natural, because it follows the period of your personal life.

Let’s finish with a curiosity. Among all the other Allow Yourself tracks, At Peace impressed me a lot. That song expresses a much deep peace, beyond the title. What were you thinking about when you wrote it?

I was thinking about inner serenity. To the enlighting you have in the moment you manage to detach from all the anxieties, when you manage to enjoy to live in the present. You know, there was a videoclip for At peace, but the directors intepreted it as the peace that a suicidal person manage to reach in the moment he left our world. Of course, I rejected it. But you see? Music is prone to every different opinion.

Thank you Giancarlo!

Thank you too, guys.

Giancarlo Erra & Nosound will play in Rome on the 26th of October.

 

Giulia Della Pelle

Lorenzo Natali

Amante della musica e dell’arte in tutte le sue forme. Studente di lettere, musicista e compositore (forse un giorno anche in modo professionale) ma, soprattutto, eterno eccessivo pensatore. Tendenzialmente bonario ed aperto ad ogni sound, raramente critico in modo cinico e accanito tanto da doversi sottoporre a censura. Forse, però, è meglio così….

2018-10-05T15:29:07+00:00 4 ottobre 2018|Interviste|0 Commenti